URLs du Jour

2021-06-12

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  • Calling It "Analysis" is Generous, But… Chris Edwards mentions the illegality briefly, but mostly discusses the main problem with the ProPublica Analysis of Taxes on Wealthy.

    Let’s focus on ProPublica’s click‐​friendly headline: “You May Be Paying a Higher Tax Rate Than a Billionaire.” The article says that a “typical” worker with $45,000 in wages pays a higher federal tax rate than the average of the 25 wealthy people on the stolen tax returns. Including income and payroll taxes, ProPublica says that the typical taxpayer pays 19 percent while the 25 wealthy people pay just 16 percent.

    The claim that people in the middle pay a higher tax rate than people at the top is at odds with data from four authoritative sources: the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Tax Policy Center (TPC), the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

    Extending and amplifying Edwards' point is Ed Morrisey, whose headline is more plain-spoken: ProPublica argument on taxes is nonsense.

    This brings us back to the ethics of publishing this data in the first place. As Edwards says, ProPublica could easily have gotten much more comprehensive and representative data from any or all of these four sources without rewarding an abuse of power (and a crime). They could have at least checked this data against the more robust and representative data to see whether these returns matched up to it — or whether they were specifically chosen to misrepresent the results of the current tax code. Instead of reporting on the returns it received, ProPublica could have fulfilled its self-declared mission by focusing on the abuse of power committed by an IRS official attempting to manipulate public policy through a selective release of public data rather than embrace that abuse of power because the bureaucrat’s political agenda matched its own.

    Instead, they chose … poorly. And their hard-earned credibility has vanished in the dishonesty that ProPublica both enabled and then amplified.

    I'd guess that the folks behind ProPublica simply don't care about bourgeois values of objectivity and fairness. They're looking to gin up envy and resentment among the peepul, in order to make Biden's tax proposals easier to enact. I hope that tactic fails, but I fear it won't.


  • Resentment Sells, But Who's Buying? Robert Bork Jr. writes on The Dangers of Conservative ‘Antitrust Revival’.

    Rachel Bovard has a well-written piece in The American Conservative that argues for those of us on the right to rediscover our true tradition of using antitrust law to stand up to powerful concentrations of market power. By the time you finish reading her piece, it will seem as if aggressive antitrust action is as Republican as splitting rails and running an underground railroad.

    But conservatives should reject her approach. Throughout her piece, Bovard focuses solely on a handful of Big Tech companies for their content decisions that anger conservatives. On this narrow concern, she endorses a purported return to a conservative stand against bigness that would, if enacted, mean the end of capitalism as we know it in America.

    If that sounds a bit hyperbolic, consider the two leading antitrust bills in the Senate today.

    One of them, authored by Senator Josh Hawley, would outlaw all mergers and acquisitions for every company with a market cap over $100 billion. That’s roughly a Who’s Who of American capitalism, almost 80 companies in all. So conservatives should go along with ossifying Procter & Gamble, Exxon-Mobil, Boeing, CISCO, AT&T, Eli Lilly, and Texas Instruments because we’re upset that Facebook and Twitter no longer let Donald Trump post?

    Bork Jr. also looks at the "even more radical Democratic antitrust bill."

    It used to be that the GOP at least had half-decent economic policies. That seems to be history.


  • Another Bit of Economic Sense. This one from Arnold Kling, who defies everything you've heard in the papers and the TV news: There is No Labor Shortage.

    Today, one hears talk of a "labor shortage," or a "skilled labor shortage." For example, the attendees of a recent conference for the staffing/recruiting industry were told that for the next 20 years the challenge would be to find job candidates. The speaker showed graphs of "demand" for workers growing faster than "supply."

    The causal factor in this analysis is the proposition that demographic trends imply slow labor force growth in the U.S. relative to overall population growth. The baby boomers will reach retirement age, while a smaller cohort enters the working age.

    If we want, we can add another demographic hypothesis to this analysis. We might suppose that until they do retire, baby boomers will be saving at higher rates, thereby increasing the supply of capital.

    Now we are ready to pose the question for our first-year economics students: describe the new equilibrium in an economy in which the supply of labor falls and the supply of capital increases.

    The answer, of course, is that the wage rate increases and the rate of return on capital declines. At higher wages, people will supply more labor (although perhaps not much more), and firms will demand less labor. With these market mechanisms working, there will not be any shortage.

    You might have noticed the slightly anachronistic references to baby boomers. That's because Arnold wrote this in 1997.


  • How Dare They! Robby Soave noticed that someone's getting delusions of … well, something. Maybe not grandeur, but like that: Anthony Fauci Says His Critics Are Attacking Science Itself.

    In an interview with MNSBC host Chuck Todd on Wednesday, White House coronavirus advisor Anthony Fauci fired back at his detractors—explicitly suggesting that the recent criticism he has received from Republicans constitutes an attack on science itself.

    "If you are trying to get at me as a public health official and a scientist, you're really attacking not only Dr. Anthony Fauci, you're attacking science," said Fauci, speaking in the third person. "Anybody who looks at what's going on clearly sees that. You'd have to be asleep not to see that. That's what's going on. Science and the truth are being attacked."

    This statement was prompted by a question from Todd, who fretted that conservative critiques of Fauci were undermining the credibility of public health officials and could cause vaccine hesitancy. "Look at Russia," said Todd. "They have a good vaccine and none of their citizens will take it because they don't trust their own government."

    As the kids say: I can't even.

    (There's a really good article by Michael Brendan Dougherty in the current print issue of National Review about Fauci. Bottom line: as a scientist, he's an excellent bureaucrat.)


  • Humility Doesn't Sell As Well As Fear. Peter Suderman suggests The Pandemic Is a Case for Policy Humility.

    One thing that's more clear than ever after a year of pandemic governance is that politicians and policymakers know less than they think they do, in part because they have less power over individual lives and choices than they assume.

    A brief case study: When Texas' Republican Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the state's mask mandate and ended all capacity limits at the beginning of March, becoming the first state to do so, his decision was greeted by a flood of high-profile criticism from left-leaning lawmakers and policymakers.

    California's Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has presided over the nation's most restrictive coronavirus policy regime, called the move "absolutely reckless." Andy Slavitt, President Joe Biden's senior advisor for COVID response, said, "We think it's a mistake to lift the mask mandates too early. Masks are saving a lot of lives." Biden himself called the move "Neanderthal thinking." And Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky insisted, "Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards."

    These are people whose job is to shape policy at the highest levels of government, and they were united in their belief that Abbott's move was dangerous. They were certain that without mandates set down from above, Texas was in for a world of hurt. Yet their dire warnings didn't pan out.

    I would almost be an automatic vote for a politician who said Gee, I was wrong about that. Sorry.